Yoga on the Ball

by Sarah Schrenk, MS on Aug 28, 2014

Flexibility, balance, strength and endurance are common components of a yoga class. The poses alone provide an excellent workout, but if you’re ready for something different, consider adding stability balls to your practice. This is a fun way to recruit core musculature, incorporate more balance, and increase range of motion.

Yoga on the Ball Details

Goal/Emphasis: basic yoga practice incorporating the stability ball

Time: 45–60 minutes (can be shorter or longer depending on how many reps you do or how long you hold poses)

Equipment Needed: a yoga mat and a stability ball for each participant (When lying or sitting on the ball, keep it on the mat for added traction. If available, place a step riser nearby to secure the ball during final relaxation.)

Music: soothing background music appropriate for a mind-body practice

Help your class members choose the correct ball:

  • When a person sits on a stability ball, there should be a 90° angle at the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Make sure the ball is firm and filled to the manufacturer’s recommendations. A ball with less air may be more supportive, while a ball with more air may require more stability from the user.
  • Before using a ball, always check it for wear or punctures.

Sources: The American Council on Exercise 2001; The American College of Sports Medicine 2011.

Centering and Warm-Up (5–10 minutes)

Start seated on ball, feet flat on floor. Cue participants to maintain neutral spine, engage abdominals, and open the chest. Introduce calming breaths with long inhalations and exhalations.

  • Inhale: Reach arms overhead. Exhale: Bring “prayer hands” down midline of body. Repeat for several breaths.
  • Place hands on thighs (feet are hip-width apart, or in wider stance if needed for support); round the back, bringing chin toward chest for seated cat. Reverse and extend spine, lifting head and chest up for seated cow. Flow gently through this cat-cow variation for several breaths.
  • Return to neutral spine, and place right (R) hand on side of ball. Reach left (L) arm up, and laterally flex spine. Switch sides. Flow through both sides, connecting to breath.
  • Return to center, and slightly lift one foot off floor. Encourage students to find a focal point as they balance. Progression: Lift both arms to front. Regression: Place hands on ball.

Sun Salutations (10–15 minutes)

  • Stand in mountain pose, ball at feet. Inhale: Raise arms up. Exhale: Move into forward fold.
  • Place hands or forearms on ball, and roll it forward, extending arms. Push hips back, creating length in hamstrings and spine, as in downward-facing dog.
  • Roll ball back in, return to standing, and lift ball overhead while stepping R foot back into high lunge.
  • Return ball to floor, and move prone over ball for plank. Place stomach on ball, and step L foot back to meet R foot. Place hands on floor directly beneath shoulders. Simultaneously walk hands and roll forward on ball until it is under upper thighs. Feet are suspended above floor, abdominals contracted. Progression: Roll until ball is under shins. Regression: Keep hips on ball.
  • Roll back until feet touch floor and hips are on top of ball. Place hands on ball and extend spine for cobra. Progression: Lift hands off ball, and reach arms overhead.
  • Release cobra, and keep L foot back, stepping R foot forward for high lunge. Reach ball overhead.
  • Bring ball back to floor, and step feet together for downward-facing dog.
  • Return to mountain pose. Repeat sun salutation 4x–6x.

Balance Series (5–7 minutes)

  • Hold ball, arms parallel to floor, and sit back into chair pose. Progression: Raise arms perpendicular to floor, and/or lift heels. You can also do spinal twist, aiming ball to one side.

For more balance ideas, and suggestions on how to structure the rest of the class, please see “Sample Class: Yoga on the Ball” in the online IDEA Library or in the March 2014 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Sarah Schrenk, MS

Sarah Schrenk, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

My first experience with fitness was exercising with "Mickey's Mousercise" on the Disney Channel at age 6. By age 12, I was participating in hi-lo aerobics classes. In my mid-20's, I decided to make fitness and wellness a career. I have a master's degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology as well as several group exercise and personal trainer certifications. Currently I am the assistant director at a university recreation center where I manage the group fitness, personal training, and summer camp programs. I'm adjunct faculty in the university's Health, Kinesiology, and Sport department and a former presenter for a national certification company.